Friday, August 9, 2019

To Save America’s Cities, We Need to Let Them Fail

Downtown Los Angeles

America's flagship cities have become laboratory experiments for social justice. Heavily controlled by political leaders who subscribe to progressive agendas, they have indulged in costly and risky policies. Permissiveness in the name of political correctness has turned once globally envied cities into dangerous ones on many fronts including law and order and public health. Venture away from the carefully curated enclaves for the tourists and the elites and one quickly sees the quality of life degrade. The cascading failure of infrastructure makes these cities ever more expensive to run with ever smaller beneficial returns on the taxes and subsidies they can garner. They are spiraling into becoming a Third World America within our borders. We need to turn this around.

We Let This Happen

The 200 largest cities in the United States,, actually only hold about 25% of the US population. The rest of us live elsewhere in the smaller under 100,000 population cities and towns across the America. To be sure, not all of our countries 200 largest cities are basket cases and not all of the places where the other 75% of us live are golden palaces. But these big cities have advantages to the US political narrative that they exploit. Most importantly, these are the towns where the mainstream media’s radio and television FCC licensed transmitters are located. Their local issues get airtime. Their politicians and activists get bully pulpits. They have cultural power. They can shape agendas. Agenda shaping is everything in the age of the Internet.

It makes one ask why the Left was able to take over the flagship cities? Being frank, the fault is in the mirror. Reasonable America abandoned the cities. Even more frank, middle ground America, that vast majority of moderate minded Americans, abandoned the cities. Turns out, we were wrong to do so.

In the vacuum we made, we let people apportion the county in to gerrymandered territories where politicians, in league with their opposites, created fiefdoms within which social experiments could be tried unfettered. The political establishment removed risk of real debate by citizens from the business of running the country. The elites only had to listen to other elites and their theories of how the betters should manage the lives of ordinary people. How easy it was to turn a plural nation of equals back into a tapestry of nobles and serfs.

Social Justice is a Black Swan

America is very good about manufacturing systemic risk be it financial or political. Elitist theories tend to be myopic agendas that come with inevitable debacles. The artifacts of imperfection are many. From the threat of bubonic plague breaking out in our downtowns that smell of unwashed humans soaked deeply into the pores of concrete walls to having to check your right-side blind spot like a hawk lest some nut doing twenty over the limit come weaving by driving it like they stole it.
We regular Americans are tolerant, so we adapt by avoidance and accommodation. We’ve gone from leaving keys under the mats to WiFi cameras at our properly lines. We think twice about parking on the street with anything in the car; or at least, check the gutter for spark plugs and the sidewalks for large planters spaced closely together.

As someone who started life in a part of the world where you concreted broken glass in the tops of the property walls, among other things, I know when my 1st world has shifted to 3rd gear. This is not a quality of life upgrade scenario, it’s a cascading failure condition.

Unfortunately, I am pessimistic that reasonable thinking alone can turn things around. Too many community leaders have bought into the politically theory traps that enable the degradation of life for good people in our cities. To buck those theories is suicidal for the establishment, even as they see things fall apart. There is too much reputational risk invested. They're going to sit on this time bomb until the fuse burns down. We ordinary people will pay the price for their inaction, and ours.

Know Your BATNA

There's a concept in difficult diplomacy when encountering irreconcilable conditions called the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Basically, when things have to fail the mission becomes salvaging what you can so that you have something to build a tomorrow from again. In the case of our largest basket case cities we have probably passed that tipping point. The time for tough love and saying no until reality sets in again has arrived. This is not the Internet. This is the real world. You cannot “imagineer” impossible outcomes no matter how narcissistically smart you think you are. Bad theories deserve to lose.

As for me, I’m interested in making sure that the core principles of the country that I love survive. It’s not about me so much as it is about making sure that the frailties of our moment do not collapse the vision of the American Experiment. Here’s my list of framing the future narrative I believe all of us should consider.

Think big picture. Begin to view cities with misguided cities like rogue states.

Hubris has consequence. Leaving the broader community of the America Experiment is a form of hubris. Creating sanctuaries that subvert the national interest, instituting law enforcement policies that raise the risk to everyone except the criminals, promoting prejudicial contracting policies based on political tribalism. These are rogue actions. The popular narrative of sticking it to the man, namely President Donald Trump, mostly to frustrate his administration because of emotional hatred is irrational. There’s more rational agenda in the shenanigans of the Iranians and North Koreans than there is in municipal officials finking on ICE.

Practice peace through strength. Patient siege craft is a form of statecraft. It’s OK to let cities with nonsensical agendas fail. It’ll start a constructive chain reaction.

Here’s the thing about popular fad thinking. It’s only popular until it’s not. It will only take one of two of these major cities that pursue progressive social policies to implode and the rest will change course. Honestly, the situation as I see it is that several of these cities are probably already trying to figure out how to break out of their traps. They mostly don’t want to be the one without a chair when the music stops.

There’s a lot of bluster by these cities thinking they are more like the sovereign cities of Ancient Greece than part of the larger United States. But the reality is that even the largest city in the US, New York City, is only 2.6% of the population. The City of Los Angeles is only 1.2% of the people. The other 198 of the largest US cities are fractions of a percent of the US per city. Their bark is bigger than their bite. It’s ok for the United States to patiently wait them out.

The bottom line is that medicine is bitter. The biggest cities will have to fail before they can be saved. Their leaders need the excuse of “I had no choice” cover in order to shed their ties to social justice agendas.

Practice constructive hill and valley power policy. Constructively manage the codependency between failing cities and their surrounding areas.

The United States still needs viable regional economies but that doesn’t mean we cannot better organize the power hierarchies in our Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s). Certain cities engage in outsized influence practices upon their neighbors in counties and sometimes even across entire states. There’s no reason the federal government, state or county systems to honor tradition once a municipality goes rogue. Rather, just as in international diplomacy, it is critical for harmony that rogues see it in their best interest to rejoin the broader community. Willingly or kicking and screaming, it’s still a good thing.

Like international interests, there is a carrot and stick element to this process. Harmonious cities should be rewarded. The selective allocation of federal grants to shape regional outcomes based is part of conducting good statecraft. The national narrative should incorporate this consideration into the how and why things happen with respect to our cities.

The US will endure. Focus on winning the long games. Target local change where it’ll work.

There’s little sense in throwing good money after bad. Nor is there a payoff to gambling at a rigged roulette wheel. There are plenty of cities where a little organizing on the margin can shift the tipping point back to the founding principles of America. You know, we hold these truths to be self-evident.

There’s an opportunity for grassroots coalitions to be born among the political orphans of this country, left and right, working together to tell the establishment and extremists the American version of “Not today ISIS.” Social media may have been used to manipulate all of us to hate each other. But it’s just a medium, a tool that can serve many purposes. It can be used to find common ground, if we are brave enough.

There are many grassroots groups that have started up around the country to take making America great again to the local level. Every city council, country boards of supervisors, congressional district can be changed if people pang together. Even “behind enemy lines” states like California have active movement of patriotic Americans willing to work. But they still need to find their organizing principle that brings together their American interest beyond the constraints of left vs. right or ethnicity. These are borders in our minds created by establishments and elites. They are artificial. They need not constrain the ordinary Americans in our middle from calling bullshit and saying we like each other. We can work towards common goals while enjoying the joviality of our differences in the kind of social cohesion America was made for. It’s time to end zero tolerance and set a new goal line, total tolerance. Don’t be PC, be Out Loud!

Tactically, it boils down to “voting blocks matter”. These are the boots on the ground. That’s how you win the day in America. All the punditry, lobbying and gerrymandering in this country is still hostage to who can organize and motivate people to just say no. Here’s the thing, while the left has been more vocal than the right in our biggest cities, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Every citizen matters in America and creating majorities that can tell the fringe to go pound sand can be organized. Middle ground America may be today’s political orphans but there’s still more of us than there are them. We just forgot this for a little while under a barrage of mainstream and social media noise. We are numb bot not hopeless. It’s time to remember who outnumbers whom.

Fight Back. Change the Game to Our Game. Expose and Oppose Trickery. Make It Your Personal Mission to Make Things Right

People like Saikat Chakrabarti may have gotten away with magic trick wins like getting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex elected to New York’s 14th Congressional District but the guy just quit as her chief of staff and is apparently being investigated for improperly routing campaign funds to private companies he owned by the FEC. Every resident of CD-14 should be considering who to vote for in 2020 to undo that bamboozle. In America, everyone eventually gets found out and pays the price. This is a principle every ordinary American should fight for, no matter where the truth leads.

My advice is go find people like Ruth Papazian who live in and honestly care about NY CD-14. People who are brave enough to say no to the carpet bagger politicians and say they care about all the political orphans in the middle. There’s a Ruth in every voting district in this country. Your mission is find them and vote them in so they can serve the interests of the country we love. We may be the people of the “cheap seats” but we matter.

An even more sinister form of trickery is the movement to divide and conquer the American social fabric. I am presently particularly appalled by the movement to openly practice prejudice against my white fellow citizens.

It’s disgustingly the same type of suppression that was practiced against newly freed blacks at Colfax at the end of the Civil War, that was the beginning of gun control as we know it in America by the way, and against Southern European and Irish immigrants from 1860 to 1925.

Our white friends and neighbors are being called unworthy simply because they embody the ethos of the post-World War II Great Society American Dream that was sold by radio and television to the Baby Boomers.

Here’s the truth. They’ve done nothing wrong. They’ve led good tolerant lives accepting of others as equals. What’s happening to them is cultural genocide. It’s wrong. Political correctness makes it difficult to impossible for them to defend themselves from this cruel and calculated asymmetric attack. But there is a way to defeat it. The rest of us need to come to their aid.

I’m personally calling upon every non-white and foreign-born American who has benefitted from the American Experiment to step up, be counted and defend our fellow white citizens from prejudice. Fight asymmetric attack with asymmetric counterattack. Because it’s the right thing to do.

Americans are good at doing the right thing when we put our minds to it. Let’s show the jacuzzi revolutionaries what America is really made of.

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